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MRI Better Than CT for Diagnosing Stroke

Posted - Oct. 20, 2004 at 9:50 a.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reporting Most hospital emergency departments use a C-T scan to take pictures of the brain to diagnose a stroke.

But a new study shows that an M-R-I scan is actually more effective at diagnosing stroke.

And a better diagnosis means patients could get proper treatment sooner.

Eleni Clark/ Stroke Patient: "I got up in the morning and I couldn't see very well, I had double vision."

An MRI brain scan showed that Eleni Clark had had a stroke caused by a blood clot in her brain. MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field is better at finding blood clots than a CT scan, which uses x-rays.

But what about detecting the other kind of neurological stroke, caused by bleeding in the brain? Researchers didn't know if an MRI could find bleeding as well as CT scan could, until now.

Chelsea Kidwell, M.D./ UCLA Medical Center: "The finding that MRI is as accurate as CT for the detection of bleeding within the brain is a major advance in acute stroke care and will change medical practice."

As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers performed both types of scand on about two hundred stroke patients, to see if MRI was as good as CT at detecting hemorrhages-- bleeding in the brain.

Chelsea Kidwell, MD: "We found that MRI was detecting hemorrhages not seen on CT."

So what should patients do with this information? After all, not all hospitals have MRI equipment."

Steven Warach, MD, PhD, National Institutes of Health: "If you have a stroke or if you're with someone who has a stroke, dial 9-1-1 and get to the local hospital as quickly as possible. That's not the time to start discussing with the hospital whether than have a CT scan or an MRI."

As for Eleni, she's glad she had the MRI.

Eleni Clark: "You know in my mind an MRI is probably better than a CT because I didn't get any radiation from the procedure and they were able to pick up immediately and know how to treat it."

And proper treatment is the whole point of accurate brain scans.

Some hospitals that have both M-R-I and C-T scans have been using both, to be sure they catch either blood clots or bleeding in the brain.

But this study shows that MRI alone can be used as the sole brain-scanning method for patients who come to the hospital with stroke, saving time and expense.

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